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St. Thomas Islandu.s. virgin island

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St. Thomas Basics

St. Thomas

Photo: Shutterstock, Yaro

Hosting dozens of beaches (somewhere in the neighborhood of 40), plus rocky coves and colorful underwater life, the island of St. Thomas paints a portrait of paradise for water lovers. In fact, that’s the reason many Americans have claimed an address on the island, leaving their Northern lives—and four-season climates—behind. On St. Thomas, which is four miles wide and 13 miles long, every day is a beautiful day with sparse rainfall, and brilliant sunrises and sunsets bookending a forecast of clear, sunny skies.

Spend a few days here and you’ll quickly discover the island is loaded with the kind of activities you could very well do in any town: gourmet restaurants, historical monuments, good shopping and a vibrant arts community. St. Thomas is also an excellent gateway to the rest of the U.S. Virgin Islands, as well as the British Virgin Islands (Tortola, Virgin Gorda, Jost Van Dyke and Anegada). Cruise ships docked at the U.S. Virgin Islands’ capital city of Charlotte Amalie—a bustling, pedestrian-friendly area with duty-free shopping, a brewery, art galleries, touristy stores and restaurants that range from elegant to casual (including jerk).

The streets are steep and rich with culture. As the island’s oldest part, dating back 300 years, history and architecture buffs will enjoy touring St. Thomas Synagogue (the Western Hemisphere’s second-oldest synagogue), Fort Christian and the Legislature Building, the pastel-colored and blood-orange exteriors and sharp lines on those last two a reminder of the former Danish rule and a departure from nature-hued buildings common in the Caribbean.

Very few cruisers get to the island’s outlying beaches and restaurants. Your goal should be to migrate to these places, in quest of more elbow room and a path less trodden. Magen’s Bay (shaped like a heart and stretching one mile) is a popular beach for locals and for good reason: in addition to sugar-white sand slipping through your toes as you walk the shoreline, you can retreat to the beach’s many shaded areas.

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